Gators get it done in the air, on the ground

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts breaks away from Mississippi linebacker Jacquez Jones during the second half Saturday in Oxford, Miss. Pitts tied a school record with four touchdown receptions, equaling the performances of Ike Hilliard and Jack Jackson. He had eight catches for 170 yards and the four scores.

Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 1:

1. Both teams likely will play two quarterbacks. Which team’s system is the most effective?

 The back-ups — Emory Jones for Florida and John Rhys Plumlee for Ole Miss — weren’t much of a factor. But Jones was a bigger one than Plumlee, who started the game at wide receiver and completed just one pass for three yards and had only four yards rushing on four carries. Jones completed one pass for 30 yards, had an interception, and rushed for 37 yards, so slight edge to the Gators there. So, it comes down to the starters. Matt Corral was good (395 yards passing and three touchdowns), but Trask was even better (416 yards and six touchdowns).

 2. Given all that’s happened, and the relatively small crowd in the stands, will the Gators’ energy level be high, low or somewhere in between?

   It seemed like an endless wait to get to this game for everybody, so there was no lack of energy on the field or on the Florida sideline. The Gators were jacked up and ready to play. As the game went along and the defense had no answer for Corral and the Ole Miss passing game, some of the players on that side of the ball for UF seemed to lose some of their intensity. But on offense and in special teams — and on the UF sideline — the energy was high throughout. 

3. The word is the UF ground game is going to be better this season. Is it?

Here is a sure sign that it has a chance to be better: when it became apparent that the defense had serious problems containing the Rebels’ quick-strike offense in the second half and the Gators needed to take some time off the clock on offense, the line and running backs came through and produced a consistent running game. For the game, the Gators ran the ball only 29 times, but produced 196 yards rushing and averaged 6.8 yards a carry. That’s night and day from a year ago.

4. Which of UF’s young receivers step up and make plays?

  Redshirt freshman wide receiver Trent Whittemore probably has earned more playing time with his debut performance. He saw significant playing time and caught three passes for 26 yards. On one of those receptions, he showed extra effort after the catch to stretch beyond the marker and convert a third down. True freshman wide receiver Xzavier Henderson was targeted several times and caught one pass for nine yards. One of the fastest players on the team, Henderson had an impressive preseason camp and has already worked his way into the playing rotation.

5. Will Georgia transfer and former five-star recruit Brenton Cox have a noticeable impact?

He played both end spots and definitely had an impact, recording four tackles, one sack and 2.5 tackles for losses. He played physical and with a lot of intensity and was around the ball and in the Ole Miss backfield for most of the game. It wasn’t quite a Jon Greenard-type performance, but the potential for that is clearly there.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

Up next

Who: South Carolina (0-1) at Florida (1-0)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, 98.1-FM, AM-850